Being calm before the Wii U storm

We're in the thick of it, bros and broettes. In the wind up to the Wii U's looming plop, people are gettin' tense. Each little glimpse we get of the various system features is accompanied by a cacophony of shrieks and wails, as if in our diabetic final throes we've found only saline in our syringes.


It is time to CHILL OUT. I'll tell ya, I'm actually quite enthused about what I've seen from the Wii U so far, but others have been decidedly candid with their displeasure regarding Missing Feature A, or Flawed System B. This piece isn't really about the Wii U, though—these are just the latest blips in the long and storied tale that is the human condition. What I'd like to suggest is an alternate way for our brains to function, not only for these coming weeks, but for the remainder of our meatsack lives. As it turns out, we may be more content if we actually just... try to be content.

I feel like I generally have a pretty good mindset when it comes to processing my experiences with media. Not just video games, but movies, TV, anything. I get the sense that it's different from how other people manage themselves, though, when I see the kinds of things that are regularly posted on the Internet. It's like people run their Analysis Engines at all times, a constant "hmm what do I think about this, I think this part is okay, but this part could probably be better, boy why isn't it better, I hate that this isn't better, nnnnGAAAAHH!!!"

When something's not so great, it becomes a sticking point. It's registered in the Displeasure Gland, and must be expunged into the veins of the world wide web, lest the organ become engorged. And boy, sometimes there is an awful lot of discharge. In my experience, on the other hand, my lymph seems to (usually) do a pretty good job of clearing up the infection itself, with very little waste product.

This is disgusting.

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I guess what I'm saying is that I'll try not to dwell on it. There are two ways to deal with something unpleasant: rail against it, or accept it. It's easy to make an argument for raging against the machine, "if the creator thinks he can get away with this injustice, he'll keep doing it in the future!" Many enthusiasts feel like it's their responsibility to register a product's failings with the universe—as if it's their civic duty to analyze and critique. "Behold, I have processed this game's shortcomings, they will not slip one by me!" And sure, critique can be valuable, it is why we have critics! But is it really in a consumer's best interests to always be a critic? Do we value our displeasure more than our enjoyment?

My goal, with any media, is to enjoy it. I want to enjoy every movie I watch, every book I read, every game I play. Don't we all? It seems like a no-brainer to me. If I don't like something, I am pretty sad that I don't like it. So I'll make an effort. I look for the good, and I really like it when it's good. If there's some bad, well that's a shame, but I'll make an effort to move along, to find some more good. I may file away my displeasure to inform future decisions, but I try not to dwell on the negative, because why would I want to? Who wins in that situation? When I stick it to a creator for their sub-par product, is what I gain in righteous self-satisfaction worth what I lose in overall happiness?

This is less a way to approach entertainment media, and more a way to approach life as a whole. As a notable community of recovering alcoholics are known to espouse:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

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Sometimes you can effect real change, sure. And sometimes something is so bad that it's literally impossible to ignore it, no matter how much you try. But experiences like these are few and far between. When you approach all things as a critic, all you're doing is ruining your life by choosing to focus on the negative. It's imperative to know which battles are worth fighting, and when it's okay to say "yeah, I don't really like that," and then just let it slide. We deal with little problems like these on a daily basis—our software at work may have some frustrating characteristic, or our car may have a slightly misaligned transmission or a loose door handle. Do we get all bent out of shape about these? Or do we just accept that "yes, the world is like this," and maneuver ourselves within it appropriately? Human beings are marvelous at adaptation—we've been imperceptibly modifying our routines to accommodate various wrinkles since we were toddlers.

I truly am not trying to invalidate the notion of criticism, but when the Internet is basically 100% complaint, it's impossible to not notice the imbalance. All of Satan's Blackened Earth is called out for being flawed, for being terrible, for being just not as good as it could have been. But what way is that to live? Sure you have easy stuff to write about that way, but is it worth the negative effect on your human experience? Is the time you've spent dealing with your sub-optimal media experience greater than the amount of time you spent being disappointed by it after the fact?

I try to be happy. Things are what they are, and I don't usually accomplish much by wishing they were something else. This is entertainment media. There are things worth changing in our lives, and there are things where the emphasis should just be on "trying to be entertained." As enthusiasts, it may be harder for us to do this than for Video Game Chump R. We naturally read between the lines, we notice these things without even trying. But I think, from time to time, it's worth making the effort. Not because a critical viewpoint isn't interesting or worth hearing, but for our own personal benefit. If we always come out of our experiences disappointed, we're really the only ones who lose.

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